A Gall Meter” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 5, 2016 (Pilipino version: “Sukatan ng tapang ng apog“)

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte sharply rebuffed the idea that presidential candidates should disclose their medical condition: “I won’t reveal my medical records. Ano ako, tanga (Am I stupid)?

Whatever malady Duterte may be suffering from, it is unlikely to be hoof-in-mouth disease. His comments, however provocative, do not appear to come from slip of tongue or mind; they seem intentionally spoken for effect.

Duterte’s response implied that voters were tanga to expect him to reveal any infirmity. But he has discovered that such comments do not invite censure; they attract amusement, media coverage, and free advertising. His approach is not likely to change. Behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated.

Duterte is not alone in scattering sound bites that insult the electorate. With weeks of campaigning to endure, we can expect more outrageous comments directly from candidates or exposed by their critics. I propose a Gall Meter to rate which candidates produce the most galling statements that provoke among the public the sharpest spike in blood pressure or acid reflux pain.

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Edilberto de Jesus
Edilberto de Jesus is a former Secretary of Education. He is also professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management.